Ovenbird

Seiurus aurocapilla


Early Spring Date: April 11
Late Spring Date: May 29
Most Frequently Seen: May 1-13

Ovenbirds are common at Monticello Park, and you should see one if you come to the park during the first two weeks in May. They nest in the Washington metro area, but not at Monticello. They are the only "one-word warbler" who visits the park.

Where to See Them in the Park

Ovenbirds walk on the ground and are relatively tame. You can see them anywhere in the park. A good place to look is along the ridge, especially near the fence line by the Kust property. Ovenbirds sometimes sing from low branches. As with the waterthrushes, they usually stand still on the branch and turn their head.

Physical Description


Ovenbird
Ovenbird - Photo by Michael Pollack

Ovenbirds look like thrushes and behave a lot like them. They are smaller than thrushes, and their back is olive brown rather than the warmer brown of many thrushes. They often strut rather than walk, and they frequently cock their tail. The sexes are similar.

Ovenbird
Ovenbird - Photo by Ashley Bradford

Ovenbird
Ovenbird - Photo by Michael Pollack

The most distinctive fieldmark is the orange crown, bordered by black stripes. No other species at Monticello has a similar head pattern. Ovenbirds spend a lot of time on dark forest floors. Their eyes are large, and they have a white eyering. The throat is white, and they have black stripes bordering the throat. The breast and the flanks are covered with small black chevrons. The belly and undertail are white.

Ovenbird
Ovenbird - Photo by William Young

Ovenbirds are larger than most warbler species. They have long pink legs, and you often see Ovenbirds traversing an area on foot rather than flying.

Vocalizations

The Ovenbird's easily recognizable song gets progressively louder and sounds like teacher - teacher - teacher.

Hear the vocalizations of the Ovenbird.

Notes

Ovenbird Stamp

Ovenbirds are the only warbler ever featured by itself on a US postage stamp. In 2005, an Ovenbird was on a stamp that was part of a habitat sheet about the Northeast deciduous forest. Ovenbirds also have inspired poetry. Robert Frost wrote the following sonnet:

The Oven Bird

There is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
He says that leaves are old and that for flowers
Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.
He says the early petal-fall is past
When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers
On sunny days a moment overcast;
And comes that other fall we name the fall.
He says the highway dust is over all.
The bird would cease and be as other birds
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.

Origin of Names

Common Names: "Ovenbird" from the domed nests they build. They are not related to the large family of birds known as ovenbirds in the Neotropics, some of whom build nests that look like clay ovens.
Genus Name: Seiurus means "tail-waving". The Ovenbird used to be in the same genus as the waterthrushes, for whom this name was more appropriate.
Species Name: Aurocapilla means "golden hair", from the orange crown.

Ovenbird video footage

Return to the Index